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HomeSportIs the honeymoon period over for the United Rugby Championship?

Is the honeymoon period over for the United Rugby Championship?

Is the honeymoon period over for the United Rugby Championship?

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Durban – The United Rugby Championship has been good for South African rugby but the honeymoon is over and an unfortunate reality of this competition is that too many of the fixtures are played with teams under strength.

At Twickenham on Saturday, nine Sharks players and eight Stormers will represent the Springboks against England and this is on a weekend when their franchises will contest URC matches.

Let’s go back to the weekend of URC fixtures before the Boks’ end-of-year tour commenced and it was the same story, with the Sharks playing the Bulls with a horribly under-strength team and the Stormers visiting the Lions without their Boks.

If I was a member of the MVM cartel that has a controlling share of the Sharks, I would ask what is the point of bringing back big-name players from overseas to play in South Africa if they are hardly ever there because of national duty.

The game between the Bulls and the Sharks at Loftus was undervalued because superstars such as Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Bongi Mbonambi, Makazole Mapimpi, Ox Nche, Thomas du Toit et al were not there, and that was frustrating for the Sharks and for rugby fans in general.

And no wonder the Sharks were so annoyed when Ulster called off their game the week before because of illness. That would have been a rare game when the Sharks were at full strength and they were amped for the game after having looked so good with their Springboks against the Glasgow Warriors.

What is the solution? The URC organisers have to be wiser with their match planning and a minimum requirement should be that local derbies are played at full strength.

Another major factor that director of rugby Rassie Erasmus should focus on now that he is finished with referees is proper compensation of local franchises for the use of their players on the international stage.

The Stormers and the Sharks are pretty much funding the Springbok team against England on Saturday and having (Sharks) or (Stormers) after the players’ names in the Twickenham programme is hardly a consolation.

Surely the healthiest thing for South African rugby is to have our best players playing in this country so that all the domestic competitions are strong, with the Currie Cup being revived.

I know that is Utopia and there will always be players going overseas to earn more but there must be a juicier carrot offered to top players to stay in South Africa or to return and that can happen if SA Rugby better compensates the provinces for use of their players.

The Boks (or any of the top teams) v England at Twickenham is the richest money-spinner in the game and SA Rugby will get a very healthy slice of the cake, but will any of that filter down to the franchises that are in effect paying for the players who will be on duty…?

The welfare of the local provinces has to become a greater focus in the South African game and the governing body should be there to serve them… not the other way around.


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